Tony Stewart will drive in his third Nationwide Series race of the season Friday, stepping into JR Motorsports' #5 Chevrolet for the Dollar General 300 at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
JR Motorsports has three wins with regular Brad Keselowski in the #88 this season, but none in 20 races with five previous drivers in the #5. This will be Stewart's first start for the JRM team, co-owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Rick Hendrick, and he should be a strong contender to take it to victory.
Stewart has won six of his last eleven starts over two seasons in the Nationwide Series including at Daytona in February in the #80 Hendrick Motorsports entry. Stewart, driving for Kevin Harvick Inc., finished second to Kyle Busch at Texas in April.
“It's going to be a lot of fun driving for Dale Jr. and Mr. Hendrick this weekend,” Stewart said. “I raced at Daytona earlier this year with HMS and was lucky enough to get a victory. This will be my first race under the JRM banner, and it's exciting. JRM consistently puts strong cars on the track, and we're hoping to capitalize on that with the Delphi team.”
Earnhardt has made seven starts in the #5 this season and has the top finish, third at Atlanta in September. Others in the car have been Scott Wimmer (six races), Ryan Newman (four), Ron Fellows (two) and Mark Martin (one).
Stewart drove in all nine of his Nationwide races last season for Joe Gibbs Racing, but his move from Gibbs to Stewart-Haas Racing left him without a in-house Nationwide team and a reduction in his schedule. Stewart still enjoys racing as much as he can.
“You have to live life, and if you want to drive racecars, then that's what you should do,” Stewart said. “If that's what's going to make you happy, then as a driver, that's what you need to do.”
Stewart is fourth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup going into Saturday night's race at Lowe's. He doesn't see the Nationwide race as any sort of distraction. It could even benefit him a little, giving him an idea how the track changes in the fall nighttime conditions.
“It doesn't take away from your focus unless you go out there and get hurt or something like that,” Stewart said. “If you didn't run the Nationwide Series or a (Camping World) Truck Series race that day and you went out and went fishing that afternoon, you could just as easily trip over a log and break your arm and maybe hurt yourself more than you would if you were in a racecar.”
Brian Campe, the #5 crew chief, is excited about having Stewart in the car.
“Tony can drive the wheels off a racecar,” Campe said. “Anytime he climbs behind the wheel, you have a shot at victory.”
by Tim Tuttle/Sporting News